After her detention for four days and Interrogation as a suspect, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights calls for the immediate release of Menna Abdel Aziz and the dropping of all charges against her
Update on May 31, 2020: At noon today, 31 May, the Public Prosecution Office ordered the detention renewal of Menna Abdel Aziz (Aya), and the other six accused in the case, for another 15 days pending investigation. The Prosecution charged Menna with the following: - "inciting immorality" and "forgery of an electronic account." The investigation will be completed with Menna today.
On Friday, 29 May 2020, the Southern Giza Prosecution Office began questioning Aya, known as Menna Abdel Aziz, as a victim in a case of rape. Menna Abdel Aziz is a well-known TikToker with more than 80K followers on Instagram - appeared in a video on Friday, 22 May, in which she recounted being raped and beaten. The investigation began in case no. 3328/2020-Administrative, Talbiya Police Station, in the presence of her lawyers from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The interrogation lasted for more than eight hours, during which Menna related the facts of her detention, rape, physical assault, and being forcibly filmed and later having some of the extorted videos of her attack published; she identified the perpetrators in each of those encounters.
The investigation was wrapped up around five in the morning of 30 May. The interrogations with Menna were supposed to be resumed the following day, Saturday, at twelve o'clock in the presence of her lawyers. However, the prosecution interrogated Menna and charged her at ten in the morning without the presence of her lawyers, and EIPR had not yet been able to obtain the official list of the charges against her. On Saturday morning, May 30th, the Public Prosecution Office ordered the detention of Menna and six others, pending investigations for a period of four days. It also ordered that Menna and a number of the accused be presented for forensic examination today to ascertain the rape incident. The remand hearing was scheduled for Sunday, May 31.
The case includes six other people who are being investigated: Mazen Ibrahim, Bassam Hanna (known as Bishoy), Shaima Shaker, Fatma Shaker, and the security guard at the hotel where the rape took place, in addition to Mohammed Hamdi (Kalashnikov) who was arrested for accompanying Menna at the time of her arrest and who she did not accuse throughout the investigation of the assault. The Prosecutor charged the detainees, with the exception of Menna, of the following: rape, kidnapping by deceitful means, robbery, sexual assault using force, sexual assault without force, subtance abuse, violating private life and threatening to publish extorted records, divulging records obtained from an assault crime, public act of indecency, breaching Egyptian family values, and creating an electronic account with the intent to commit a crime and publishing indecent photos.
A security force arrested Menna Abdel Aziz on Tuesday 26 May in Alexandria, in the company of another person. Hours before her arrest, Menna had announced her decision to return to Cairo on Tuesday morning to go to the Public Prosecutor's Office to file a report of the facts of her assault. The various police departments and prosecutors in Giza denied that Menna was held in custody since Tuesday afternoon until her appearance at the Giza Prosecution on Friday, and her lawyers did not know where she was being held during that period. Al-Talbiya and al-Omraniya prosecution office rejected the request of Menna's lawyers on Wednesday to file an unlawful detention report on her behalf, as she was detained for more than 24 hours without being presented to the prosecution.
Although the Prosecution was keen to investigate all the details of the assault incidents that Menna was subjected to and was keen to apprehend the individuals taking part in that crime, denying Menna the presence of her lawyer at the time of charging her, constitutes a serious violation of her legal right to defense. And most importantly, the prosecution has placed her in such a position, as the accused, who would fear interrogation because of the risk of its consequences to herself, instead of the prosecution treating her as a victim/survivor of a young age. Menna deserves to feel safe as much as possible in order to be able to effectively participate in the investigation.
Moreover, the prosecution’s using information that she was led to disclose under oath, during her interrogation as a victim, to press charges against her, breaches an quintessential rule in the Law of Evidence – that a person may not be compelled to provide evidence against themselves. Resulting in Menna being punished for self-reporting rape and assault. This may intimidate many girls and women from reporting if they are subjected to sexual or physical violence, threats or extortion, for the fear of being criminalized themselves.
We, therefore, appeal to the Prosecutor General to immediately release Aya, known as “Menna Abdel Aziz," and to drop all charges against her and to be cognizant of her position as a rape victim/survivor. She must be provided with full support to uphold her right to have the law enforced against those who assaulted her. We also demand the support of the National Council for Women to Menna Abdel Al-Aziz. In light of the attack she was subjected to and to ensure her legal rights, we encourage the National Council for Women to provide her with psychological and practical support as a survivor/victim of sexual, physical and psychological violence.